Herne Bay Castle with a twist

By Robyn Welsh

45 Argyle St, Herne Bay
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SIZE: Land 320sq m, house 211sq m.
PRICE INDICATION: CV $1.69 million. Auction November 14.
INSPECT: Sat/Sun 1-1.30pm.
SCHOOL ZONES: Bayfield Primary, Ponsonby Intermediate, Western Springs College, Auckland Girls' Grammar.
CONTACT: Patrick McCarthy and Maria Salmon, Custom Residential, Patrick ph 0272 333 988, Maria 027 274 0573.
FEATURES: Architecturally designed solid concrete home, open fire, separate office, separate second toilet, living area above the garage, north-facing garden and lawn.
45 Argyle Street, Herne Bay. Photo / Ted Baghurst
45 Argyle Street, Herne Bay. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Architect Brian Trubovich spent a lifetime in awe of this site before he got the chance to design and build his own unique home here.

Brian grew up three doors along from here and his earliest memories are truly sweet, thanks to the elderly woman whose back garden was the land on which this house now stands.

"When I was 5 years old I used to wander over here and she'd feed me lollies," he recalls. "Twenty-eight years later, when she was 90 and moving into a rest home, she phoned and said she wanted us to buy the house because she knew how much I liked it."

Brian and his wife, Jane Firmstone, bought that villa that same year, in 1973. Brian built a 10m kauri boat in that backyard before they crossleased the property to build this house, which now has its own title.

"Every architect likes to build at least one house for themselves in their lifetime," he explains. Notwithstanding the difficulties that architects talk about when designing their own homes without a client brief as such, Brian had clear ideas of what he wanted to achieve - "passive solar, permanence and low maintenance".

He explains: "There is a little bit of my Dalmatian heritage and the New Zealand touch in the corrugated iron roof. Someone once called it 'the castle with the corrugated iron roof'."

Children love it here, especially the spiral staircase that runs up through the middle floor to the turret they call the "the secret squirrel place". He says, "I designed this place for children because I'm one myself, really."

Beneath its intriguing rooflines and within its concrete-filled concrete block walls, this home showcases Brian's aesthetic and practical appreciation of demolition timber and fixtures, glass and unadorned concrete.

The spine of the spiral staircase and the kitchen bench are solid concrete. The middle floor is flat slab concrete that was hoisted into place by a crane. The stairs are jarrah, as are the beams in the lounge and the dining table that was built on-site. The kitchen cabinetry and open shelving is also jarrah. The cedar bi-fold windows open out beyond their rimu frames to connect the kitchen with the landscaped back garden and adjoining terracotta-paved courtyard.

Upstairs, French doors open up the double bedrooms to decks. In the roof space and the pitched Douglas fir ceiling, Brian's architectural practice office boasts expansive urban and harbour views.

The mirrored wall on the mezzanine mid-floor fills the centre of the house with natural light. "We get the sun everywhere," says Jane. The double height of the downstairs dining area makes the contrast within the black, tiled kitchen all the more dramatic beneath its concrete ceiling.

One of Jane's favourite rooms is the multi-level upstairs bathroom with jarrah-trimmed steps. Another favourite spot is the dining room bay window for its privacy. A tall slim window on the opposite wall offers a tantalising snapshot of the front of the professionally landscaped gardens.

The moat around the turret beside the 100-year-old Phoenix palm, which their elderly neighbour planted on her wedding day, are dramatic points of interest.

That front palm and a large, aged pepper tree that has long since died were the two trees between which Brian designed this house and the garage, with its upstairs "sports bar", unfolding on his drawing board.

Now, 27 years on, he has his sights set "out west" for another challenge.

- NZ Herald

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